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Week 1



'The concept of language as an instrument of information is today pushed to the extreme. The relation of man to language is understood in a transformation whose range we still estimate. The course of this transformation can also not be immediately arrested. However it is fulfilled in the deepest silence. Indeed we must admit that language in its daily usage appears as a means of comprehension and these means are used for the usual relations of life. Only there are still other relations than the usual ones. Goethe calls these other relations "deeper", and says of language: "In ordinary life we scarcely get by with language because we only indicate superficial relations. As soon as speech is made from deeper relations, another language immediately appears: the poetic".'


Martin Heidegger, "Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten," Der Spiegel 30 (Mai, 1976): 193-219. Trans. by W. Richardson as "Only a God Can Save Us"

'Heidegger: Let me say this. The criticism that I had broken off my ties to Husserl is unfounded. In May, 1933, my wife wrote a letter to Mrs. Husserl in the name of both of us in which we assured them of our unaltered gratitude, and sent this letter with a small bouquet to Husserl. Mrs. Husserl answered briefly with a formal 'thank you' and wrote that the ties between our families were broken. That I failed to express again to Husserl my gratitude and respect for him upon the occasion of his final illness and death is a human failure that I apologized for in a letter to Mrs. Husserl.

SPIEGEL: Husserl died in 1938. Already in February, 1934, you had resigned the rectorate. How did that happen?

Heidegger: Here I have a point to make. In the interest of reorganizing the technical structure of the university, i.e., of renewing the faculties from the inside out in terms of the very substance of their task, I proposed to nominate for the winter semester of 1933-34, younger and, above all, professionally outstanding colleagues to become deans of the individual faculties, and this, indeed, without considering their relationship to the Nazi Party. Thus, Professor Erik Wolf was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Schadewalt of the Philosophy Faculty, Professor Soergel of the Science Faculty, and Professor von Möllendorf, who had been dismissed as Rector the previous spring, of the Medical Faculty. But already by Christmas of 1933 it became clear to me that I would be unable to carry through the pending renewal of the University against either the resistance of the academic community or [the opposition of] the Party. For example, the Faculty reproached me for introducing students into responsible administration of the University -- exactly as is done today. One day I was called to Karlsruhe where the Minister, through one of his Councillors, demanded, in the presence of the Student District Leader, that I replace the deans of the legal and medical faculties with other colleagues who were acceptable to the Party. I refused this request and offered my resignation from the rectorate if the Minister insisted on his demand. That's just what happened. This was in February, 1934. I resigned after ten months in office while [other] rectors of that time remained in office for two or more years. While the national and international press commented on my assumption of the rectorate in the most diversified fashion, not a word was said about my resignation.

SPIEGEL: Did you have at that time the opportunity to present your thoughts about university reform to the appropriate government minister?

Heidegger: What time are you referring to?

SPIEGEL: We are referring to the trip that Rust made to Freiburg in 1933.16

Heidegger: There were two different occasions involved. On the occasion of the Schlageter celebration in Schönau (Westphalia), I took the initiative of making a short formal call upon the Minister.17 On a second occasion in November, 1933, I spoke with him in Berlin. I presented to him my conception of science and of the possible restructuring of the faculties. He took careful account of everything that I said, so I nurtured the hope that what I presented to him would have some effect, but nothing happened. I do not see why exception is taken to this exchange with the Party's then Minister of Education, while at the same time all foreign governments were hastening to recognize Hitler and to extend to him the ordinary international signs of respect.

SPIEGEL: Did your relations with the Nazi Party change after you resigned as Rector?

Heidegger: After my resignation, I limited myself to my teaching responsibilities. In the summer semester [204] of 1934, I lectured on "Logic." In the following semester 1934-35, I gave my first course on Hölderlin. In 1936, the Nietzsche courses began.18 All who could hear at all heard this as a confrontation with National Socialism.

SPIEGEL: How did the transfer of office take place? You took no part in the celebration?

Heidegger: That's right. I refused to take part in the ceremonial transfer of the rectorate.

SPIEGEL: Was your successor a committed member of the Party?

Heidegger: He was a member of the Law Faculty. The party newspaper, Der Alemanne, announced his designation as Rector with banner headlines: "The First National Socialist Rector of the University."

SPIEGEL: What position did the Party take toward you?

Heidegger: I was constantly watched.

[ . . . ]

SPIEGEL: Fine. Now the question naturally arises: Can the individual man in any way still influence this web of fateful circumstance? Or, indeed, can philosophy influence it? Or can both together influence it, insofar as philosophy guides the individual, or several individuals, to a determined action?

Heidegger: If I may answer briefly, and perhaps clumsily, but after long reflection: philosophy will be unable to effect any immediate change in the current state of the world. This is true not only of philosophy but of all purely human reflection and endeavor. Only a god can save us. The only possibility available to us is that by thinking and poetizing we prepare a readiness for the appearance of a god, or for the absence of a god in [our] decline, insofar as in view of the absent god we are in a state of decline.'